Showing posts with label Puerto Rico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Puerto Rico. Show all posts

January 22, 2020

Angry Residents (Puerto Rico) Took To The Streets on Monday About The Government Warehouse Locked Up With Hurricane Supplies

Image result for govt warehouse full of Emergency goods in PR
 Gov. Wanda Vázquez fired the island's emergency director Saturday after the incident set off a social media firestorm.

Angry residents took to the streets of Puerto Rico on Monday. 
Fury over the government's mishandling of disaster aid following a spate of devastating earthquakes earlier this month, coupled with the recent discovery of unused supplies — some dating back to Hurricane Maria — is driving frustrated demonstrators to the gates of the governor's mansion. 
Fed up with what they say is rampant corruption, they are demanding the resignation of Gov. Wanda Vázquez, who just months ago served as the island's Justice Secretary. 
"Where is Wanda? She's not here. She's busy hiding disaster supplies!" crowds shouted on Monday, reviving chants hurled by protesters over the summer, when the public forced Gov. Ricardo Rosselló out of office. 
His ouster led to months of political turmoil which Vázquez has struggled to overcome. 
But the latest round of political unrest, including the dismissal of several top cabinet members, began on Saturday. 
A local blogger named Lorenzo Delgado had been tipped off about a government-run warehouse in the southern city of Ponce, where hundreds of people have been left homeless by the recent temblors.  
The warehouse, it turned out, was filled with supplies; pallets of expired baby food expired water, blue tarps, gas stoves, diapers, cots, air mattresses, and sheets sat untouched, even as thousands continue to sleep outside in decimated communities. 
Delgado posted his findings on Facebook. The live stream almost immediately drew a large, unruly crowd to the warehouse. 
A handful of people eventually forced open the doors and began distributing the goods. 
In one video of the incident posted by Primera Hora, a man reads out the date on one of the water pallets: "October 14, 2017," he shouts. 
"While people were suffering after Maria, this place was full of water," another man can be overheard saying. Hurricane Maria struck the island on Sept. 16, 2017.
As the live images ricocheted across the Internet, people across the island grew irate. 
The head of the emergency management agency, Carlos Acevedo, issued a statement explaining that the supplies were being distributed and denied that the much-needed resources were going to waste. But his defense did not save him in the face of popular outrage.
Within hours, the island's governor fired him.
"There are thousands of people who have made sacrifices to bring help to the south and it is unforgivable that resources have been kept in a warehouse," Vázquez said. 
She added that Acevedo had mismanaged the government's supplies and failed the victims of Puerto Rico's earthquakes. 
The next day, Vázquez fired two more top officials in her cabinet — the Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. 
Vázquez said the positions require public trust and that she had lost confidence in them. 
"They weren't able to personally tell me specifically where these [collection and distribution] centers were located, what they contained and whether an inventory was completed," she said, according to the Associated Press.
She also said the heads of agencies are responsible for informing the governor about the existence of available resources. 
The scandal erupted just days after the release of billions of dollars in aid from the Trump administration was announced last week. 
Image result for govt warehouse full of Emergency goods in PR
 This house in Puerto Rico Shows you the herculean effort for this family to fix their house. A well-constructed cement house on the ground floor that got inundated with water from the storm and the roof was also damaged. They decided to built on top and used the ground floor older hose to be their rock of salvation. The electric pole that was cut into pieces by the winds is now a thick cement pole on the right. I don't know if there is damaged to the house from the dozens of Earthquakes that hit the Island. I wish them the best...Adam

The federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development totaling $8.2 billion, had been delayed for months by Secretary Ben Carson. He argued more stringent financial oversight measures were needed before the disaster funds could be distributed. 
The same day, President Trump declared a "major disaster" in Puerto Rico because of the earthquakes and ordered additional federal assistance to help the island recover. 
The governor said she was not worried the latest firings would further delay the federal funds. 
But Vázquez's moves did little to quell the growing outcry. Activists organized an island-wide strike on Monday.
Protester Awilda Rodriguez Lora said the flurry of earthquakes that have struck the island over the last few weeks along with the warehouse incident has re-opened old wounds that have not fully healed.
"After the hurricane ... we pushed so hard to go back to this pseudo-normality," Rodriguez told NPR. But, "when you have another natural disaster, remembering how the government dealt with our people, it brings this fight or flight feeling." 
She added that people's indignation did not dissipate when Gov. Rosselló was forced out of office last summer. 
It remains present, simmering under the surface, she explained. And the warehouse incident has only served to ignite a new spark.

January 14, 2020

Millions of Puerto Ricans Wait To See If Trump is Going to F* Over The Island Again!


After Passing Paper Towels After hurricane Maria, Trump Passes Some food that some Puerto Ricans Cooked in an Outside kitchen but he wanted the shot maybe to say he was cooking now for the Island.


Millions of Puerto Ricans are waiting to see if President Donald Trump will sign a major disaster declaration to authorize much-needed aid. Four thousand people are still in shelters and many others are sleeping outside after yet another powerful earthquake.
5.9 magnitude earthquake shook southwestern Puerto Rico on Saturday just before 9 a.m. It was the strongest since last week's 6.4 quakes. More than 2,000 tremors have occurred since December 28.

Saturday's earthquake didn't injure or kill anyone, but there were landslides and damage to homes and businesses.
"You never know what could happen. Anything can just go just like this," said Praxides Rodriguez, snapping her fingers. "Love your family, appreciate them, you know, just thank God every day for what you have."
Rodriguez and her husband have been living in a tent in Guanica, one of the hardest hit areas. Many people there have set up camps at the top of a mountain because that's where they feel safest as aftershocks continue.
Rodriguez said she's okay, but hopes more help is coming for those less able to take care of themselves.
"We don't know how much longer we're going to be here," she told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud. "We have a lot of elderly that are really in bed, that can't even move out of bed."

UP CLOSE: A grandmother with Alzheimer's was in a bed in the front yard of her family's home, sunburned and sweating.

After a series of earthquakes in Puerto Rico, the family had no power, no water and couldn't find an ambulance. @DavidBegnaud reports: 

87 people are talking about this

Elizabeth Vanacore, with the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, warned residents that they should still expect "some aftershocks." The network has more than 20 sensors installed around the island to detect earthquake magnitude. 
Mr. Trump has not yet signed the major disaster declaration. The island also hasn't received more than $18 billion in federal funding that was designated after hurricanes that struck more than two years ago, according to the Washington Post
But, FEMA's top official in Puerto Rico, Alex Amparo, said they're not waiting.
"We've got our teams out in the field," he said. "The tremendous amount of mutual aid that's happening from the island, I'm sure you saw on your way here."
Traffic was backed up Sunday in the mountains of the hardest-hit regions as Puerto Ricans came from near and far to bring supplies to their neighbors in need. Since Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans say they've learned they can't rely on the government in times of disaster.

January 10, 2020

Take A Look A Puerto Rico After The Two Devastating Earthquakes

A colonial-era church built in the late 1800s has stood in the central plaza of Guayanilla on the southern coast of Puerto Rico for more than 100 years.
On Tuesday morning, shocked locals inspected its ruins. 
“All that’s left is one wall and half of another wall,” Glidden Lopez, a spokesperson for the municipality of Guyanilla told the Miami Herald
Puerto Rico was hit by a devastating magnitude 6.4 earthquake around 4 a.m. Tuesday. It leveled homes, decimated at least one of Puerto Rico’s already-struggling schools, and collapsed an iconic natural rock bridge that had stood on Puerto Rico’s south coast for thousands of years.  
At least one person is confirmed dead, and Tuesday’s tremor — the strongest in 102 years — is only the latest in a series of more than 400 quakes more powerful than magnitude 2 that have shaken the island since late December. 
And the seismic activity is still ongoing: The U.S. Geological Survey reported dozens of aftershocks off Puerto Rico’s southern coast throughout the morning on Tuesday. Preliminary readings indicated that one of those clocked in at 5.6 on the Richter scale, hitting south of the island just hours after the larger quake. 
Gov. Wanda Vazquéz declared a state of emergency Tuesday, and top officials on the island said it was too soon to fully assess how bad the damage was. About 300,000 people on the island are without access to clean water, the governor said at a news conference
The island’s still reeling from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure. The electrical grid, which even prior to Maria badly needed repairs, hasn’t recovered. Post-Maria recovery essentially ground to a halt last year as federal funds dried up. 
That leaves the island vulnerable to earthquakes like the ones that have hit the island in recent weeks. 
Here’s what we know about the damage the quakes have caused so far: 
  • Puerto Rico’s two largest power plants were damaged, which plunged much of the island into a blackout on Tuesday. The largest had suffered “severe damage,” and might take days to get back online. After Maria, much of the island was without power for 11 months. Already, local officials are warning their residents that it could be weeks before power is fully restored. 
  • Hundreds of public schools have been shuttered due to budget cuts in the last three years in Puerto Rico. One of the ones that was still open, in Guanica, was badly damaged by Tuesday’s earthquake. 
  • The island’s largest hospital in San Juan was briefly without power on Tuesday morning, but Puerto Rican power authority told CBS News it had been restored by around 11 am
  • More than 300 people across Puerto Rico have taken to shelters, unable to return to their either collapsed or heavily damaged homes.
  • In Ponce, another city on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, cops reportedly evacuated 150 people from buildings that were in danger of collapsing, including a nursing home. 
  • Monday’s quake toppled the natural rock arch, Punta Ventana, a popular tourist spot in Guayanilla, on the island’s southern coast. “We’ve lost an important symbol of our town and our natural heritage,” Guayanilla Mayor Nelson Torres Yordán said, according to the Washington Post
All this has prompted the island’s government to ask for the Trump administration for a federal disaster declaration. The Federal Emergency Management Authority says that that request is currently “under consideration.”

December 14, 2019

The Funds Approved As Disaster Relief for Puerto Rico are Being Held By HUD

                        HUD withholding billions Puerto Rico disaster aid

Thursday marked more than three months since HUD was supposed to begin the process of allowing Puerto Rico to apply for one of the withheld aid batches—about $10 billion—and 22 months since the funds were signed into law.

Jose Javier Santana holds a Puerto Rican flag he found on the ground after Hurricane Maria passed through on October 6, 2017, in Utuado, Puerto Rico. 
Rep. David Price (D-NC) accused HUD of "singling out Puerto Rico once again" with the second tranche of delayed money, which was on the brink of being delivered to Puerto Rico until the department in recent weeks suddenly chose not to approve the island nation's grant agreement. An aide for Price, who chairs an appropriations subcommittee that oversees HUD, said they've been notified by HUD that it signed the grant agreements for each state receiving the same tranche of funds—minus the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Price said he's been offered no explanation by HUD as to why the grant agreements for the two U.S. territories were not signed, despite HUD giving their action plans the green light. The move has left him to wonder whether the White House may have played a role. The HUD officials who testified to Price in October said they would allow Puerto Rico to apply for the first tranche of illegally delayed aid "very soon" and claimed the decision to withhold it was based on HUD's overall concerns about corruption—not a directive from Secretary Ben Carson.

After the publication of this story, HUD provided the following statement, attributed to an unnamed department spokesman. The department noted that Puerto Rico has only spent a fraction of the funds they already have access to.

"The Administration has taken historic action to help the people of Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. Given the Puerto Rican government's history of financial mismanagement, corruption, and other abuses; we must ensure that any HUD assistance provided helps those on the island who need it the most. This process must be handled in a prudent manner with strong financial controls to mitigate the risk to Federal taxpayers. In addition, it is worth noting that Puerto Rico already has access to $1.5 billion and has so far only spent $5.8 million—less than one percent of those funds."

President Donald Trump (L), holds an African American History Month listening session attended by the nominee to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson (R) and other officials in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 1, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

HUD did not address Newsweek's questions about who determined the two tranches of aid should be withheld or why Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands' grant agreements were not signed. The White House did not respond for comment.

"They're asking for it, wouldn't you say?" Price told Newsweek in an interview on the prospects of defunding a portion of the agency. He chairs the appropriations subcommittee responsible for overseeing HUD.

"What the legal options might be, we need to consider. But what we do know, appropriations bills do offer leverage," Price said. "The best approach is not to have this problem. But if you do have it, you write a deadline into the bill. If that's ignored, then you start thinking about more drastic moves, like withholding funds for something HUD wants."

In October, the HUD officials would only go so far as to say Puerto Rico could begin applying for the funds "very soon."

"The other day, I had a mayor call me and ask, 'could we sue the federal government for their inefficiency, bureaucracy, and ineffectiveness?'" Cruz claimed.

The corruption argument by HUD and Republicans is moot, Democrats like Price have said because Congress placed safeguards that require the money to be monitored by HUD as it's dispersed. HUD's Office of Inspector General also pledged to conduct audits as additional oversight.

"I think all of us who are scratching our heads over this are wondering whether maybe all this traces back to some kind of order from the top or desire to please the president. We just don't know," Price said.

Throughout his tenure, Trump has made false claims about the U.S. territory, such as inflating the amount of hurricane relief aid and refusing to acknowledge the high death toll of Hurricane Maria. He's also feuded with Puerto Rican leaders, like Cruz and ousted Governor Ricardo Roselló.

And Price and his Democratic colleagues aren't the only ones who are casting doubts on HUD's motives. 

"It's blatant racism," Cruz, San Juan's mayor, told Newsweek. "It's blatant discrimination."

She doesn't like the way HUD handles its disaster block grant program to begin with, much less when the department singles out Puerto Rico.

Cruz said she feels the entire system is designed to help big businesses and powerful people profit from the misfortunes of those whose communities were devastated by tragedy, rather than operate as a system that aims to weed out corruption. She said local governments are required to choose from a certain list of contractors or companies to complete the major projects that they outline in action plans for HUD, which are required in order to receive the federal grants.

"For anyone from the federal government to be talking about corruption with the most corrupt president of the United States sitting on a chair an inch away from being impeached," Cruz added, "it's really the pot calling the kettle black."

Prior arguments show that HUD contends that recent events are why, in part, they need to keep a close eye on such a large amount of money. The department maintains financial monitors on the island and has reiterated its concerns over Puerto Rico's recent political unrest with Roselló's ouster and a debt crisis that has for years handicapped the local government.

Cruz doesn't buy HUD's concerns, however, citing the safeguards that Congress put in place to have the aid routinely monitored for fraud or waste.

When aid is withheld from an island nation that's been devastated by hurricane after hurricane year after year, Cruz explained, those who don't live in Puerto Rico fail to realize the real-world effects that will have on local communities. And when HUD officials continue to offer few or no explanations, she feels it only hinders their preparation for the next Hurricane Maria.

"People die because of the federal government's and Trump's ineffectiveness," the mayor said. "People continue to die."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows that Puerto Rico is fourth worse affected globally in terms of fatalities caused by extreme weather.

November 6, 2019

Engineering Student at Purdue Refused By CVS to Get Meds Because He Had A PR License

A Purdue University engineering student said a CVS employee grilled him about his immigration status, even asking him for his visa, and denied over-the-counter cold medicines because his driver's license showed he was from Puerto Rico.

                     Image result for Purdue University engineering student,jose guzman

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth.
José Guzmán Payano, a junior at Purdue, went to his local CVS store to purchase some Mucinex on Oct. 25. While completing the self-checkout, the CVS employee approached him and asked him for his identification, at which point he provided her with his driver’s license, which was from Puerto Rico. According to Guzmán Payano, the employee repeatedly told him that the store could not accept his identification, then asked him for his visa.
“She said she needed a U.S.-issued ID, Canada or Mexico license. That's when I tell her that was a U.S. issued license, and I didn't need anything else but that license," Guzman Payano told WTHR, NBC News’ Indianapolis, Indiana, affiliate. “When she asked me for a visa, I was in shock at that time.”
Guzmán Payano said incidents like this have happened to him before, which is why he carries around his U.S. passport in his backpack. Yet, the CVS employee would not accept his passport — which showed he was born in Puerto Rico — as a valid form of ID either and instructed Payano that he needed to provide documentation that verified his immigration status.
Guzmán Payano said he left the store without the medicine and returned a few minutes later to see whether a shift supervisor or a manager could assist him, but was once again told he’d need a U.S.-issued ID. Upon leaving, he called CVS to file a complaint.
"I was a little nervous," Guzman Payano told WTHR. “I was shaken by what had happened.”
Though the incident occurred in late October, it gained momentum online after Guzmán Payano’s mother, Arlene Payano Burgos, wrote about it on her Facebook page.
“My son, or any other consumer, is not obligated to disclose his immigration status to any CVS employee! What caused this employee to ask him for his visa? Was it his accent? Was it his skin color? Was it the Puerto Rican flag on the license?,” Payano Burgos wrote in the post that as of Monday, had received more than 5,000 likes and more than 10,000 shares. “Whatever triggered her to discriminate against my son embodies exactly what is wrong in the United States of America today.” CVS has since apologized for the incident and clarified that the store does accept Puerto Rican IDs as valid forms of identification that can be used to purchase cold medicine.
“CVS Pharmacy is committed to ensuring that every customer receives courteous, outstanding service in our stores and we have apologized to our customer in West Lafayette and his mother following his recent experience in one of our stores,” Amy Thibault, senior manager of corporate communications at CVS, wrote in an emailed statement to NBC News. “While we are confident that this was an isolated incident, we will be reiterating to all of our stores the correct procedures to follow when requesting identification that is required by law for certain transactions, as well as the forms of identification we accept, including IDs issued by U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.” 
However isolated the incident involving CVS may be, there have been other documented cases of U.S. businesses not accepting IDs issued in Puerto Rico. Last year, a Puerto Rican couple visiting California for their niece’s wedding said they were not able to check in to a Motel 6 because their IDs weren’t considered valid. 
Both incidents underscore misunderstandings surrounding Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. The U.S. took control of Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1917, Puerto Ricans were given U.S. citizenship through an act of Congress.
Yet, a 2017 poll found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens.
“I guess I should be thankful that he wasn’t thrown in the back of an ICE van and interrogated, or worse,” Payano Burgos wrote in her Facebook post, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “What happened to my son today is not unlike what many other families have had to face since Trump was sworn into office and it’s completely unacceptable.”
From NBC Latino 

October 31, 2019

There is A Path For Puerto Rico Statehood on a U.S. Bill Which Will Authorized A PR Election

Image result for puerto rico as state 51


The question of statehood for Puerto Rico would be put to voters of the U.S. commonwealth for the third time since 2012 under legislation introduced in Congress on Tuesday.  Proponents of the bill said it would provide the island with the same path to statehood taken by Alaska and Hawaii, the last two states admitted to the union. 
Under the legislation, which has some bipartisan support, a federally authorized referendum would appear on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot in Puerto Rico. Approval by a majority of the island’s voters would lead to a presidential proclamation within 30 months making Puerto Rico the 51st state. 
President Donald Trump has called Puerto Rico “one of the most corrupt places on earth,” making the bill’s future murky. The island’s non-voting congressional representative, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, said the measure has 45 sponsors.  The island is still trying to recover from devastating hurricanes that hit in 2017, while it works its way through a bankruptcy process to restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations. 
Gonzalez-Colon said the bill provides political equality for Puerto Rico. 
“The American citizens of Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to participate in a federally-sponsored vote and be asked the following question: ‘Should Puerto Rico be admitted as a State of the Union, yes or no?’” she said in a statement.  “This is similar to what happened in Alaska and Hawaii, which is what ultimately makes this legislation different.” 
In a non-binding 2017 referendum here 97% of the island's voters favored statehood, although turnout was just 23% due to a boycott against the vote. 
In a 2012 vote, 61% of Puerto Ricans favored statehood over other alternatives. Neither result moved Congress to act on statehood. 
Puerto Rico, which has been governed by the United States since 1899, has suffered the effects of unequal treatment under federal law compared with U.S. states, hindering the island’s development and economy, according to the bill. 
Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis

October 24, 2019

Cubans in Miami Had Castro, Puerto Ricans Have Maria, They Want to Follow The Same Recipe


{By Luisita Lopez Torregrosa}


Puerto Ricans in this city, who have long felt like a sideshow in Florida politics, are mobilizing to gain a larger voice at the ballot box, motivated in part by the devastation and the response to Hurricane Maria, which “showed our powerlessness," as one attorney and activist says.
“Puerto Ricans are galvanized and unified for the first time,” says Natascha Otero-Santiago, a publicist and community activist, referring to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the drive for political empowerment. “I’ve never seen anything like it here in my 25 years in Miami.”
Otero-Santiago points to the “summer revolution,” the popular uprising that drove Puerto Rico’s then-Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló from office. “It brought us all together, Puerto Ricans on the island and Puerto Ricans here in solidarity and gave us the incentive and energy to raise our voice.”
Some longtime residents and activists see an opening as the parties, especially Democratic presidential candidates, see the growing potential of Puerto Rican voters ahead of 2020.
Democratic presidential candidates are showing up in the state with an eye on its 29 electoral votes and the key to victory are the state’s 3 million eligible Latino voters. Puerto Ricans, the fastest-growing Latino group in the state with 1.2 million people, command one-third of that vote, about the same as Cuban-American voters.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who had been here for the first debate in July and for private fundraisers, recently timed his first public rally in Miami to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., visited San Juan early in her campaign and unrolled a debt-relief plan to stabilize the island. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., enlisted the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as one of his campaign managers. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg recently held a grassroots rally and a private gathering with Puerto Ricans in Orlando and has expressed support for statehood. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino presidential candidate, made Puerto Rico the first stop in his campaign.
While candidates court prospective voters, Otero-Santiago and other political organizers and activists say voting is just part of it.
“We must elect more Puerto Ricans to local and state offices and Congress,” she says. The 27-member Florida congressional delegation has one Puerto Rican member, Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Central Florida, which is home to a substantial and growing Puerto Rican population.
Only three Puerto Ricans hold seats in the state Legislature and there's only one Puerto Rican mayor, Joel Flores, of Greenacres in Palm Beach County.

Growing numbers, but voters?

The number of island-born, eligible Puerto Rican voters in Florida has increased 30 percent since 2016, according to Pew Research. But that doesn't immediately translate to votes. During the recent midterm cycle, the four Florida counties with the largest Puerto Rican populations had slower Latino voter registration growth, and Puerto Ricans lagged behind other voters in the midterms.
Frederick Vélez III, 29, a Puerto Rican activist who got his start in politics as a scheduler for Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., came to Miami last summer after working to get out the vote in Orlando. He said that among some of the approximately 50,000 to 70,000 Puerto Ricans who have settled in Florida in the two years since Maria, there is still a lack of familiarity with mainland and state politics, and some speak little English.
“On the island, they vote every four years, no midterms, no school board, and city council elections," Vélez said, adding that voting on the island is a holiday and turnout can be as high as 80 percent. "Here, they don’t vote up to their numbers," and activities such as fundraising or getting involved in local campaigns have not been part of their past experience.
Advocacy organizations such as the Hispanic Federation and the Alianza for Progress have been mobilizing to reach out to prospective voters. On Oct. 16 in Orlando, the Hispanic Federation launched Que Vote Mi Gente, a voter registration drive aimed at the Puerto Rican community.
The kickoff included Broadway star and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose father Luis Miranda founded Hispanic Federation, as well as salsa singer Frankie Negrón. The organization is planning a full-blown campaign deploying social media, television advertising, and get-out-the-vote rallies, according to Otero-Santiago, a member of the Hispanic Federation.  

Appealing to Puerto Rican voters means focusing on issues that are specific to their community. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, so while immigration is not a priority, the question of Puerto Rico's reconstruction and financial recovery, as well as the prospect of statehood are key issues.
For the GOP, Florida is fertile ground. President Donald Trump won the state by 112,000 votes in 2016 and has the support of the state’s two Republican U.S. senators, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott, as well as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and dozens of state and local officials.
In targeting Latino voters, Republican organizers and officials are sticking closely to the president's playbook, slamming Democrats and their policies as socialist and talking up the economy.
“President Trump values the Hispanic community and the strong Latino support for him and his policies will be instrumental to his re-election in 2020,’’ Danielle Alvarez, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, says. So far in this cycle, according to the campaign, GOP volunteers and organizers participated in Puerto Rican faith fairs and festivals; promoted anti-abortion and other conservative social issues that appeal to evangelical Puerto Ricans and launched Latinos for Trump in Miami, where the president lost in 2016.
Democratic presidential candidates are countering the GOP message, attacking the president's record regarding island issues.
"Vice President Biden is absolutely making a concerted effort with the Puerto Rican community,” Isabel Aldunate, Biden’s Hispanic media press secretary, says. She pointed at a Biden campaign video lambasting Trump’s careless handling of Puerto Rico after and since Maria. The campaign recently hired Laura Jimenez, a Floridian with experience in the Puerto Rican community as its national Latino vote director.

Warren named Kimberly Diaz Scott, a Latina, as state campaign director, the first such appointment by a Democratic presidential candidate in this cycle.
Democratic organizers concede that amid conflicting goals, groups and fundraising issues, prospective voters are responding to the attention with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
“Puerto Ricans who relocated after Maria and the economic collapse on the island are tired of politics and polarized,” Nicole Rodriguez, 42, president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Miami-Dade, says explaining why some are disengaged. "They have soured on politics on the island, on the corruption and the bad economy and come here to get away from that and want nothing to do with politics here.”
But Rodriguez is optimistic. “The numbers are there. The issues are simple. We need to make more noise.”
Republican political strategist and commentator Rick Wilson, who's fiercely critical of Pres. Trump, says that when it comes to Puerto Rican voters, Democrats need to learn a lesson from Republican Sen. Rick Scott's victory in November.
"He won a surprising amount of the Puerto Rican vote by going out to them, spending millions of dollars and to his credit, going repeatedly to Puerto Rico," said Wilson, adding it would be "political malpractice" if Democrats don't have hundreds on the ground registering Puerto Rican voters. "They lose it because they get outhustled."

Will they gain clout?

Cuban and Puerto Rican comparisons are inevitable in South Florida. Puerto Rico’s political power here reached its peak in 1973 when Maurice A. Ferre, a member of a prominent Puerto Rican family, became the city’s first Hispanic and the first Puerto Rican mayor in the United States. But after his twelve years in office, it was the city's growing Cuban American population which become a powerful political voice in the city and the state.
“Cubans always had a North star, Cuba, Castro,” explains Francisco J. Cerezo, 49, an advocate for Puerto Rican issues and a law partner at DLA Piper, who studied law and worked in New York City until moving to Miami 20 years ago. “That unified them gave them a common purpose ... We did not have a North star until recently. Our North star may well be Maria.”
“The hurricane tore apart our illusions,’’ he says, looking over Biscayne Bay from his 25th-floor office downtown. “It showed our weaknesses, our powerlessness. It affected the rich and poor. It brought Puerto Ricans together on the island and on the mainland. It may be the closest thing we’ll have to a North star. It may be our rallying cry.”
It was for Gabriela De Jesús, 28, a Florida International University master’s candidate who is running for a Democratic seat in the state Legislature. “The treatment Puerto Ricans received after Hurricane Maria infuriated me,” she says.
De Jesús, who prefers to be called Gaby, was born in Puerto Rico and grew up partly in the Dominican Republic (her father is Puerto Rican, her mother Dominican). When she was 25, she endured a yearlong illness that forced her to give up a small catering business but inspired her to run for office.
“She’s a force of nature!” Otero-Santiago says, watching Gaby speak to a crowd of supporters gathered in a South American restaurant in a shopping mall near downtown. The youngest and the first Puerto Rican woman to run for office in South Florida, she couches progressive ideas in moderate terms, emphasizing human capital and the need to fight racism and culture shock that she says many Latinos feel in this country.
Days later, over coffee at Joe’s Take Away in South Beach, De Jesús recalls her early years in the U.S. “I was shocked, unable to speak and relate when I arrived at Manhattan College in the Bronx. It was all so different and I didn’t speak good English and felt lost.”
About newly arrived Puerto Ricans, she says, “they are suddenly here and they don’t speak English well and they don’t vote because they don’t know the system and they are afraid. I know what that feels like.”
Apart from De Jesús, there are two other Miami Puerto Ricans running in local races: Eleazar Meléndez, running for a district seat in the City Commission, and former state Rep. Robert Asencio, who's running for a Miami-Dade County Commission seat.
For her part, De Jesús is officially kicking off her campaign this month, with Frederick Vélez as her manager. She talks about the need for transparency and unity, about a broken system. In doing so, she's hoping to win a voice for Puerto Ricans in the state — and perhaps a boost to her party.

NBC News

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